I am the youngest of four kids, and because of that reality I had to follow my siblings in school and have the same teachers they had. I can tell you that I heard this statement more than once: “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” and “Why aren’t you like your brother?” I often had this icky feeling in school that I somehow fell short because I wasn’t like them.
Our task as Christians is to imitate Christ – not try and impersonate others by being someone we are not. God has created each of us uniquely and has gathered us together in his church. So, we need to strive to be the best particular person we are in imitating Jesus by means of who God designed us to be, and learn to work together in the church appreciating one another as we seek to follow Christ.
We are to imitate Christ through embracing a biblical set of relational values (Philippians 2:1-2). It is shared values, not smooth sailing, which keep a group of people together. If we have experienced encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion then we need to remember and recognize this and pass those collective values on. None of these ideals occur in isolation; they happen because God mediates his blessings to us through other people. In other words, we owe to others what God has done through others for us.
These common relational experiences occur as we participate in the life of our triune God. The values that undergird our relational dynamic in the church come from the perfect relationship that occurs within God himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. As we spend time with God and are filled-up with him, the love and grace of God spills-over in our dealings with others. This is not a matter of will-power; rather, it is a matter of spending time with God because we as people tend to imitate those we hang around.
If we hang out with people who are always complaining, we are going to continually be grumps who never get anything done. But if we hang out with people who are always praying, we are going to have a value of constantly connecting with God and interceding for others. If we hang out with people who are never happy, we are going to have a pessimistic outlook on church ministry. But if we make it a regular practice to hang out with Jesus, we will imitate Christ’s values of humble service and a gentle attitude. If we hang out with people who are encouraging, loving, tender, and compassionate, we are going to emulate those same biblical mores.
My sister was the valedictorian of her class; I didn’t follow in her steps. My brother was the kind of compliant kid that teachers envied to have in their classes; I think my teachers wondered if we were from the same family. My other sister was friends with her teachers and they all enjoyed her; I remember getting a lot of sighs and eye-rolling from my teachers. Eventually, I gave my life completely to Jesus Christ my senior year of high school. I found my identity in Jesus. I discovered I didn’t have to be like anyone else because God used me for who I was, right where I was, learning to imitate Jesus.
We are not to be worried or discouraged about how far short we fall before our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. Instead, we are to be concerned about how God wants to fulfill all his good promises and purposes in us and through our shared values because at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God. We are to pass on to others every good value we have in Jesus Christ. May it be so.